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Eastern Opera Presents a Double Bill: "Mark Twain And The General" and "I Pagliaci"

Lou Kersey

Monday, May 12, 2014 • 10:43am

WARREN, NJ - Eastern Opera of New Jersey announces tickets are on sale for two fully staged operas: “Mark Twain And The General” and “I Pagliacci”, on Saturdays and Sundays May 24, 25, 31, and June 1. Saturday performances will begin at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday performances at 3:00 p.m. at the Brook Theater in Bound Brook. Both operas will be sung in English with a brand new translation of I Pagliacci written by the company’s General Director Karole Lewis and is suitable for all ages.

Eastern Opera of New Jersey will present a double bill of Mark Twain and The General, composed by Robert Butts and written by Jewel Seehaus-Fisher; and I Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo.

Mark Twain and The General is based on President Ulysses S. Grant.  Towards the end of his life, General Grant (played by Don Sheasley) attempts to write his history of the Civil War. At the same time, he is suffering with cancer. His wife Julia (played by Karole Lewis) fears for his life and worries that his preoccupation with writing his book adds to his pain and could hasten his death. The family cook (played by Ira Barth) reminds the General that he needs to keep up his strength and eat his greens.  Needing financial help, Grant is hoping to sell articles when possible. Mark Twain (played by Brian Jameson), in need of a financial and professional boost, visits the Grants with a proposal of an advance payment against royalties from his book and an idea to sell subscriptions to the publication. Though philosophically opposed, Grant and Twain form a partnership that leads to the successful completion and publication of the book, one of the classic works of American literature.

I Pagliacci by by Ruggero Leoncavallo, takes place on the Feast of the Assumption. Prolog: Before the opera begins, Tonio (played by Joseph Deren) steps out and asks the audience to consider that actors are real people and tells them that the story the author wrote is based on real life.

Act I: Eager townspeople gather in the center of the town to greet a troupe of travelling thespians who are returning to perform a show.  Canio (played by Peter Lewis), head of the troupe, invites the townspeople to come to the show. One of the townspeople jokingly suggests that the hunchback Tonio is charmed by his young wife Nedda (played by Karole Lewis 5/24, 6/1 and Justyna Giermola 5/25, 31) and Canio warns that he will not tolerate that nonsense and warns that if Nedda were unfaithful the ending would not be pleasant.  The church bells ring and the women go to church, while the men go to the tavern.  Nedda is confused and disturbed by her husband’s remarks and suspicious glances and admires how the birds are free to roam as they wish. Tonio appears and tries to make love to her but she takes out a whip and puts him down.  Silvio (played by Jason Adamo), Nedda’s lover arrives and persuades her to run away with him at midnight.  Tonio returns to see Silvio and Nedda kissing and hurries off to tell Canio.  Canio returns and hears Nedda tell Silvio that she will go with him at midnight and chases Silvio off.  Canio demands that she name her lover and goes into a wild rage with jealousy.  Peppe (played by Ira Barth) restrains Canio and Tonio advises Canio to wait until the evening when they can catch Nedda’s lover.  Alone Canio sobs that he must play the clown though his heart is breaking.

In Act II, the townspeople assemble to see the play.  Silvio is also in attendance. Colombina (Nedda) tells the audience that Pagliaccio (Canio) is gone for the evening and is serenaded by Arleccino (Peppe), who dismisses Colombina’s servant Taddeo (Tonio).  Colombina and Arleccino share dinner until Taddeo bursts in telling the lovers that Pagliaccio is on his way and is very angry.  Arleccino tells Colombina to slip a potion into Pagliaccio’s drink to make him sleep and Canio over hears Colombina utters the same words she said to Silvio. Arleccino slinks away before Pagliaccio arrives.  Sarcastically Taddeo tells Pagliaccio of his wife's innocence, causing Canio to go mad with real-life jealousy. No longer aware of the play, Canio demands that Nedda tell him her lover's name. She tries to continue with the play, the audience applauding the realism of the "acting." Enraged by her defiance, Canio stabs Nedda and then Silvio, who has rushed forward from the crowd to help her. Tonio cries out that the comedy is ended.

“The intriguing story of the last days of Ulysses S. Grant is inspiring.” Says Karole Lewis, General Director.  “To visualize how a man, who had seen such death and destruction could drive himself to put history onto paper, is fascinating.  The collaboration between Robert Butts and Jewel Seehaus-Fisher captures this moment in time.  The melodies are memorable and thought provoking.”

Ms. Lewis went on to say “I Pagliacci is very different from “Grant”.  It is true Italian passion.  Human emotions are exploited.  Joy, fear, loathing, jealousy, anguish and rejection lead to a most unpleasant ending.  Not only is I Pagliacci a play, but within it is another play.  This lends to the complexity of the situation.”

“The lush melodies and dramatic musical line make I Pagliacci a mainstay for opera goers.” Dr. Butts says.  “Combining drama with music makes for a powerful combination.  The collaboration between the performers on stage and the orchestra make for a powerful drama that leaves the audience wanting more. ”

About Eastern Opera of New Jersey:

Eastern Opera Corp. is a 501(3) c nonprofit corporation organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes. Specifically, Eastern Opera has been formed to encourage and instruct individuals for the purpose of improving and developing their capabilities, to educate the public on subjects useful to the individual and beneficial to the community, and to promote the arts and culture to the local communities. The first opera performance, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (May, 2013) was met with standing ovations. For more information contact Lou Kersey at loukersey@easternopera.org or /www.easternopera.org.

Tickets for “Mark Twain/Pagliacci” are $35 general admission, $25 for students and seniors, and free for children under 12, and may be ordered by calling 908-566-5708 or online at www.easternopera.org/tickets.  For more information, please visit www.easternopera.org.


 

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